by Ray Campbell, ICB President
Roughly since 2008, the city of Chicago has been promising to install more accessible pedestrian signals at signalized intersections. After many promises not kept, in late 2019, with the help of Disability Rights Advocates, the American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago along with three individual plaintiffs, Ann Brash, Maureen Heneghan and myself, filed suit against the city of Chicago for failure to install accessible pedestrian signals at signalized intersections. We sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as provision of traffic signals represent a program or service of a local government.
In early 2021, the United States Department of Justice joined the lawsuit on the plaintiff’s side due to violations of federal law. This was unprecedented and a big step forward for our case.
On March 31, 2023, a federal judge ruled that by not installing accessible signals, Chicago was violating federal law, and not effectively communicating information about intersections to people who are blind or visually impaired. This is a great victory for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. While much work still needs to be done to negotiate a remediation plan with the city, the fact that a federal court has found that not installing accessible signals violates federal law is significant and should send a message to cities across the state and around the country that they can no longer deny people who are blind the equal access provided by accessible pedestrian signals.
I am so proud of president Debbie Watson and the members of ACBMC, along with our other individual plaintiffs. It’s been an honor for me to fight alongside you to make Chicago a safer, more accessible city, and I look forward to the hard negotiations that lie ahead to craft a remediation plan. This shows how important it is to belong to an organization like ICB and our parent organization, the American Council of the Blind. This helped us access powerful national resources to make Chicago’s streets safer and more accessible for people who are blind.